Nutrien Eyes Boosting Output of Time-Release ‘Smart’ Fertilizer

The world’s biggest fertilizer maker is looking at ramping up production of its time-release “smart” nitrogen product to feed demand from farmers seeking more sustainable operations, Nutrien Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Chuck Magro said.

Unlike traditional fertilizers that get absorbed when applied to soil, Nutrien’s ESN Smart Nitrogen is contained in granules that do not release the nutrient into soil until the crop needs it, which is triggered by certain temperature and moisture levels. This prevents nitrogen from being wasted and leeching into water sources.

“We’re basically selling everything we can produce,” Magro said in a phone interview, citing increased farmer interest. “We’re now looking at capacity expansion in this area because of future demand.”

Nutrien has the capacity to produce 400,000 metric tons of ESN, a product that currently accounts for about 2% of total fertilizer sales for the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based firm. Magro sees more demand from farmers for the so-called smart fertilizer during a period of heightened environmental awareness around agricultural practices. Governments and companies are looking to farmers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, in turn, growers are increasingly seeking ways to curb waste.

Government policies and incentives are expected to drive more sustainable farming practices, which should lift demand for these more “climate friendly” products, Magro said.

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